November 14th, 2020


17. The Mummy (1932) and 18. Dracula is not Dead (2017)

I haven't been watching very many films recently, as I have simply been too busy, but at least that means it isn't too big an undertaking to catch up on the reviews.

17. The Mummy (1932), dir. Karl Freund

I've seen this one before (LJ / DW), and indeed [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 and I followed it up by working our way through the whole of the Universal Mummy series - an enterprise which I would highly recommend. Its great and all the things I mentioned in my first review still very much impress on a second viewing - the well-informed and indeed cutting-edge for the time treatment of archaeological issues, the agency of the main female character, the striking use of deliberately vintage-looking film footage to show the past in a vision and the amazing ending in which Imhotep is destroyed via the power of a pagan goddess. But maybe I didn't say enough about Boris Karloff's performance last time, except to comment on his pleasingly malevolent delivery of the dialogue. That goes together with some excellent eye acting - shifty glances and menacing stares which are ably enhanced by good lighting and close framing - as well as a stiff gait and some chunky lifts which helped him to look taller than everyone else in the film despite only actually being 5'11". Like all the best monsters, Imhotep also has a complexity which Karloff brings out well, especially when speaking dialogue about how he loves Helen Grosvenor for her soul, not her body. Synchro-watching this time with [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313, we agreed that if we had to choose one or the other of them, he would be a better option than sappy tedious Frank, the human love interest played by the same guy as Jonathan Harker in Dracula, who does precisely nothing helpful or interesting throughout the entire film.

18. Dracula is not Dead (2017), dir. Luizo Vega

This was screened as part of this year's IVFAF, which I went to IRL last year (LJ / DW). I didn't get to engage with it very much this year, because the first of its two days clashed with the academic conference I spoke at recently, and after all that intensive academic Zooming the last thing I wanted was more of the same on the second day. However, by the evening I did feel more or less up to staring at vampire-related stuff streamed to my telly, and as this was the only full-length film I could find in that timeslot which sounded interesting (on the basis of this trailer and this article), I went for it. It is basically a series of vignettes loosely tied together into a story by our hostess, Vampira (Mariana Genesio Pena), who explains what is going on between the various vampy characters we see. The primary aesthetic is a cross between a fetish fashion shoot and an industrial music video, though it's generally experimental and plays around with various techniques - e.g. some sections are filmed in the style of silent film. The 'plot' (such as it is) is that Dracula, who dominates the Paris fetish club scene along with his lover Lilith, is dying for want of virgin blood in this modern world, but I have to say I find that whole premise rather tiresome. I also wasn't wild about the sequence in which Dracula hears of the existence of one last remaining virgin, Lucy, whom we see bathing erotically in a lake, and who is then 'saved' from Dracula's bite by Van Helsing pursuing her through the bushes and basically raping her. On a charitable reading it might have been meant to make us reconsider the idealisation of virginity and our notions of heroism, but I am not convinced the director's thinking was anything like that sophisticated. Still, Vampira the hostess, who happens to be trans, was absolutely great. Her sassy, worldly, gossipy persona will be what stays with me from this film the most.

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